My mom drifted between harsh reality and semi-true health reports. Santa Claus was not real. Halloween was not a holiday. Fried chicken gave you pimples. But the one theory my sister and I couldn’t quite understand was my mom’s denial of dairy’s existence.
She would argue, along with other experts today, that our bodies were not meant to digest dairy and further consumption of these products will harm our bodies over time. I am starting to believe and accept this truth.
She did not believe in milk. Never once did I see milk from a cow in my refrigerator growing up. We had a variety of visitors hanging out in our fridge: almond milk, soy milk and coconut milk. I didn’t think much about it. I associated milk with cereal, and we were only allowed to have cereal that had a minimum of four grams of fiber–which, if you’re wondering, is shredded wheats and oatmeal.
I don’t blame her, though. Chinese cuisine does not use much dairy or gluten. My mom is the best cook I know, and I will praise her cooking until the day I die. I like to think my sister and I grew up to be pretty healthy and strong without the calcium everyone raved about in cow’s milk. Or maybe I got enough calcium from drinking my friends’ leftover milk cartons and indulging in dairy products when my mom had gone to bed.
Recent studies on cow’s milk have strengthened my appreciation for my mother. PETA published a list of reasons to stop drinking cow’s milk. Some of the reasons include higher rates of bone fractures, an increased risk for prostate cancer, prevalence of acne, weight gain and the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics.
Cow’s milk isn’t only hurting our bodies. Dairy farming is proven to be more environmentally destructive than beef farming, according to Alissa Hamilton who has a Ph.D. in environmental studies. Hamilton goes as far to argue the impact the government’s support for milk in a society where ethnicities such as Asians and Aboriginals have trouble digesting, and thus milk could be at times racist.
I could have been born lactose intolerant. I could have become lactose intolerant over the years. Maybe if I grew up drinking milk, I would not be lactose intolerant. But will I ever know?
I have many caring family members and friends who question if I know how much damage I am doing to my body when I eat dairy as someone who is lactose intolerant. My answer to these questions are listed in John Hopkins’ list of lactose intolerance symptoms: belly cramps, nausea, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Beyond those, no I do not know what kind of damage is going on inside.
There is no treatment to help your body make more lactase, according to John Hopkins. But they do suggest managing lactose in your diet to see which ones affect you more or less. Some of their tips include having milk and milk products with other foods, eating dairy with lower levels of lactose, changing over to lactose-free milk products and finding dairy foods that don’t cause severe symptoms.
On a day that I feel empowered, I can convince myself I could live a life without dairy. But the more I think about animal style fries from In-N-Out, jasmine green milk tea with boba, BJ’s Pizookies and blueberries and cream, I just don’t think I can do it. I’m not strong enough. Maybe one day when I’m tired of having diarrhea everyday, I’ll give up dairy.
Email Allison Lee: firstname.lastname@example.org